Vivint Outdoor Camera Pro Review: Your Guardian Awaits

 digitaltrends.com  08/02/2020 13:00:07   Adam Doud
Photo of the Vivint outdoor camera.
“The Vivint Outdoor Camera Pro uses A.I. to watch your property and proactively keep it safe.”
  • Integration with basically everything
  • Smart sentry mode
  • Low profile, unobtrusive
  • Two-way speaker
  • No floodlight
  • No smart screen integration
  • iPad app locked to portrait

With more and more DIY home security solutions in play these days, it’s important to know that there are still home security professionals out there you can call on. When those professionals work hand-in-hand with smart home tech and artificial intelligence, things get really cool and that’s just what we’re working with here with the Vivint Outdoor Camera Pro. But first, let’s briefly talk about the whole “Vivint experience.”

As we covered in our review last year, Vivint is a whole-home smart home/security solution that is professionally installed and monitored. All of Vivint’s technology is deeply ingrained in the whole security system, which is why it’s challenging to evaluate a single component of it. You can’t just go out and buy a Vivint Outdoor Camera Pro and wire it up to the house. It’s a part of the whole. In this case, the Outdoor Camera Pro most directly works with your Vivint home security panel to show video. Plus it works with other components around your home, like your smart locks, lights, etc.

Keeping out of the way

One thing that I really like about the Camera Pro is how small and unassuming it is. Coming off a review of the Netatmo Outdoor Camera with siren, the hardware design is night and day. This camera is designed to sit snugly on a corner and not be noticed unless it sees someone messing with your stuff. Then it gets visible, which I’ll talk about in a little bit.

The Vivint Outdoor Camera is small and unobtrusive.

The camera needs to be hard-wired to your home, but it does so through power over ethernet. Basically a Cat-5 cable runs from the camera to a plugged-in hybrid Wi-Fi adapter that feeds the camera power, while at the same time transmitting the video signal over Wi-Fi. If this sounds intimidating, it maybe is, but that’s why the camera is professionally installed.

Overall picture quality is quite good and sharp. Its 140-degree field of view coverage is not the most out there, but it meets the arbitrary minimum standard. A camera like the Arlo Pro 3 gives you a generous 160-degree field of view, which is great. In my back yard, 140 degrees does the job. Plus, the app allows you to adjust the picture quality and bandwidth. I set mine to medium which was more than adequate for my needs. The camera also has full night mode as well.

Loud and proud

Screenshot of the Vivint app.

As for the rest of the hardware, the camera is equipped with a loudspeaker and a ring light. The loudspeaker allows you to talk through the app to whoever is outside, whether that’s an intruder, or your kids on the trampoline who refuse to come in for dinner. The speaker is loud and clear, so both the intruder and your children will know they’re being bad. Whether or not either of them care is a different conversation. The loudspeaker can also be used as an extension of your alarm, meaning your neighbors can be notified if something is amiss as well. Also, the camera can be a door chime extender, which is super handy if you’re doing yard work or having a socially distanced party in the backyard. The speaker adds a ton of functionality.

At 85 decibels, the loudspeaker isn’t the loudest, especially compared to the 108dB output of the Netatmo Outdoor Camera. But in our testing, 85db is great for talking to people through the camera, and the Vivint camera also comes with the protection of professional monitoring. It’s a little easier to forgive a quiet siren in light of the additional layers of protection Vivint brings.

Software strengths

Ironically, the software of this camera is both its greatest strength and its biggest weakness. One really cool, unique thing that this camera does is called sentry mode. Sentry mode keeps an eye out on your turf, and looks for people. If anyone lingers in the camera’s eye for a specified amount of time (anywhere from 1 to 90 seconds), the camera can play a tone, and turn the ring light red to indicate that it’s recording. My favorite tone that it can play sounds like a human whistle. The whistle, theoretically, causes an intruder to look at the camera, so it gets a perfect shot of their face. Sentry mode can be enabled automatically when your alarm system is armed, on a schedule, or manually.

Moving into the app, you use the Vivint app (available on Android and iOS) to view the cameras, watch recorded events, and you can use the app interface to unlock the doors directly from the camera view. You can also grab a photo from the app or view all events that were recorded. Settings for multiple cameras can be adjusted within the app as well, so you can turn sentry mode on in the front yard while leaving it off in the back. But the camera and app have some limitations.

Software challenges

First, in order to have 24/7 recorded footage, you need a Smart Drive, which is a physical hard drive module in your home. The smart drive is attractive, but it costs an extra $250. Having the hard drive allows you to “rewind” and scrub through footage for up to 30 days. Without the smart drive, you’re limited to events recorded when people come into the frame, which leads us to our second weakness.

The smart camera will only record events when it sees people. It will ignore animals and other movement. That is not ideal. Most cameras can identify people, but they can also record events for automobiles, or animals, or any other movement. You can see those things if you scrub through the footage (if you have the smart drive), but it can be easy to miss some of those other motions which is a real bummer. As a case in point, my wife discovered an animal has been eating our vegetable garden, which is in the camera’s view. Without recorded events, it’s hard to scrub through and see what’s actually getting in there and how.

I have two other minor quibbles with the camera. The Vivint app on the iPad is locked to portrait mode which is an obvious sign that the iPad app is just a scaled-up version of the iPhone app. Also, neither Vivint controls nor camera are compatible with Alexa or Google Assistant smart screens. The former is a disappointing find for a veteran company like Vivint that gets so much else correct. The latter just feels like an overall swing and miss. With smart screens becoming more and more common, being able to monitor your backyard camera on your kitchen Nest Hub should be a given. When I asked Vivint about these, I was told the company would look into the possibility of adding both.

Our take

Overall, the Vivint Outdoor pro camera is a solid upgrade to an already solid security system. The security factor is one thing, but sentry mode puts it over the top. Security cameras are typically passive protectors. But watching out for people and warning them off is another level of defense.

I’d like to see a floodlight on here as another layer of protection — whistle, red light, then hit them with the flood if they don’t run. But by that time, I would already been notified and so has Vivint, so things will get taken care of one way or another.

Is there a better alternative?

Yes and no — $399 is steep, and other options provide just as much (or more) functionality for lots less. The Nest Cam IQ outdoor will integrate with your Assistant-powered smart displays. The Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight Camera gives you a floodlight along with the camera. If you want to go super cheap, check out the Wyze Cam Outdoor.

Will it last?

The camera has a solid plastic build and feels durable. The warranty lasts for 120 days after installation, which is less than pretty much all other competitors. Still, call us cautiously optimistic.

Should you buy it?

Yes. This camera integrates seamlessly into the Vivint security system and it has bells and whistles that outshine its few shortcomings. That being said, this is a qualified yes only if you are going to invest in Vivint’s whole system. If all you want is a security camera and nothing more, look elsewhere.

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